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Prototype cloaked assault fighter
The TIE Phantom, also referred to as a Phantom V38, was a prototype TIE series starfighter developed by the Galactic Empire during the Galactic Civil War. A modified V38 assault fighter, the TIE Phantom was the result of a development project led by Grand Admiral Martio Batch and was equipped with both deflector shields and a hyperdrive, along with a technology not seen for decades—a stygium cloaking device.
The development process began in response to the Rebel victory at the Battle of Yavin. After some initial troubles, Batch was able to secure a supply of the stygium crystals required by the cloaking device, and the fighters entered production on Imdaar Alpha. When the testing process was completed following the Battle of Hoth, Darth Vader intended to use the new starfighter in a devastating assault on the Rebel Alliance Fleet. However, over a series of encounters, the Rebels learned of the new threat. Recognizing the danger, the Alliance dispatched pilots Rookie One and Ru Murleen to capture one of the fighters for study.
The Rebels successfully infiltrated the Super Star Destroyer Terror as it prepared to launch the fighters against the Alliance and escaped with one of them, which they used to destroy both the Terror and the facility where the fighters were produced. However, the Rebels' acquisition of the fighter was short-lived—when the stolen TIE Phantom's self-destruct mechanism activated before the Rebels could examine the fighter, the technology was lost.
- "Scanners are picking up something strange; I can't get a firm fix on anything."
- ―Ru Murleen
The TIE Phantom was a modified version of the V38 assault fighter, leading some to refer to the starfighters by this designation, as well as the more common "Phantom TIE." Design-wise, it was a member of the TIE series, which dominated the Empire's starfighter fleet during the Galactic Civil War. However, it was distinctive among the series in that its solar array wings were attached directly to the fuselage, perpendicular to the hull, rather than to pylons extending from it. Like in the TIE/D Defender, the wings were equally spaced around the hull, with one located directly above the cockpit, and two below and to either side.
Whereas most TIE series starfighters in use at the time had a spherical cockpit section, the TIE Phantom's cockpit was elongated, and reminiscent of some Corellian Engineering Corporation freighters, including the YT-1300 light freighter, and the later Sienar Scimitar assault bomber. The section behind the cockpit was roughly triangular, with the wings mounted to the tips, and contained the ship's twin ion engines. With no landing gear, the fighters had to be supported when aboard ship to keep the lower wings off the surface. A launch mechanism would grip the fighter by the upper wing and maneuver it into position when departing.
Entry into the cockpit was possible through an elevator hatch on the bottom of the fuselage. The fighter was designed for a crew of two: one piloting the vessel, while the other acted as a gunner. The crew's positions in the cockpit were staggered, with the gunner sitting forward and to the right, while the pilot took the rear left console. Both positions had a computer display, along with the controls required to operate the ship. Unlike most fighters in the TIE series, the TIE Phantom featured life support systems, allowing the crew to operate it without the bulky helmet and breathing equipment required by most TIE pilots. The crew did, however, wear a headset with a microphone and headphones to assist communication in-flight.
The TIE Phantom was armed with two laser cannons mounted to the body under the cockpit, which could be set to fire-linked. Three more laser cannons were mounted on the tips of its three wings, and all five could be fired simultaneously to maximize the effectiveness of a shot. The vessel was designed to be tougher than the ubiquitous TIE/LN starfighter, and also possessed deflector shields for defense—a feature not present in standard TIE models. Another unusual feature for a TIE Fighter was the hyperdrive, which enabled the TIE Phantom to travel between star systems.
However, the TIE Phantom's most unusual feature was its cloaking device. The device utilized stygium crystals to give the fighters an ability unheard of in ships their size in recent decades—the ability to appear effectively invisible to the naked eye, while at the same time evading sensors and scanners aboard other vessels. When a TIE Phantom was cloaked, other vessels could, at best, detect only an unusual sensor anomaly and were unable to get a firm reading. Even other TIE Phantoms were unable to penetrate the cloaking shield. To take full advantage of the cloaking device, the vessels had a built-in mechanism that allowed the pilot to fire the fighter's lasers at any time, with the cloaking device being automatically shut off and turned back on after every volley. This allowed them to remain unseen until the moment of firing, thus getting the jump on their enemy, and to be virtually invisible the vast majority of the time, even during a dogfight.
The technology in the TIE Phantom was considered a potential threat to the Empire, should it have ever fallen into enemy hands. To prevent this scenario, the designers fitted each fighter with a self-destruct mechanism that could be activated remotely, so that should one ever be captured, nobody would be able to replicate its technology.
The TIE Phantom's cloaking device allowed the fighters to move through space undetected. This invisibility, combined with the hyperspace capability, allowed them to travel to hostile systems to scout enemy positions ahead of an Imperial invasion. During a battle, they could move unseen around the area and look for vulnerable positions to attack, and the device also provided a major advantage during dogfights. The fighters' independence was boosted by a life support system that allowed the crew to operate independently for up to three days before needing to return to a capital ship. The Empire intended to take full advantage of the fighter's capabilities, planning to use a fleet of the vessels to decimate the Rebel Alliance Fleet. For its part, the Rebel Alliance quickly realized that the TIE Phantom posed a major threat, with the ability to cripple their fleet with near impunity.
Ultimately, however, the "Phantom Fleet" never survived to lead the planned attack on Alliance forces, and the starfighter's usefulness in large-scale battles remained untested. In the limited action they did see, the ships, which were typically used in small flight groups rather than full squadrons, proved effective in strikes on Rebel patrols, typically moving behind the enemy undetected and quickly eliminating them.
- "As you can see, Lord Vader, the units perform admirably. In fact, I think the whole project has proved quite impressive. Why, in a few years…"
"What I see, Admiral Sarn, is yet another one of your endless tests. I will not be impressed until I have, under my command, the full power to crush the Rebel Alliance."
- ―Admiral Sarn and Darth Vader
During the reign of the Old Republic, ships featuring cloaking devices had been fairly common throughout the galaxy. The cloaking technology made use of stygium crystals mined from the planet Aeten II in the Dreighton Nebula, but as the mines began to run dry, cloaking technology became increasingly rare, with the Sith Infiltrator developed shortly before 32 BBY being among the last known examples of stygium-cloaked vessels.
Following the rise of the Galactic Empire, Emperor Palpatine charged Grand Admiral Martio Batch with developing a working cloaking device. The loss of the Death Star at the hands of the Rebel Alliance at the Battle of Yavin had enraged the Imperial hierarchy, who sought a weapon that would catch the Rebels off-guard and ensure the Empire's ultimate victory. Batch's low profile, resulting from his reluctance to engage in Imperial Court politics, made Palpatine consider him an ideal candidate to lead the secret development project. Working out of a research station on Imdaar Alpha, Batch spent years seeking an alternative to stygium-based cloaks, developing a system based around hibridium. However, the hibridium-based cloaking device suffered from "double blindness," leaving the cloaked vessel blind to its surroundings.
Around 3 ABY, Batch abandoned the hibridium-based cloaking technology and instead attempted to recreate the successful stygium cloaking screen used in the Sith Infiltrator. To this end, he ordered the Tarkin superweapon, a stripped-down version of the Death Star, to Aeten II. Batch used the Tarkin to shatter the planet, releasing millions of stygium crystals from the planet core to be used in his new project.
With the supply of stygium crystals secured, Batch was soon able to recreate the old cloaking technology. At the facility on Imdaar Alpha, the Empire began fitting modified V38 assault fighters with the technology, with the aim of producing a fleet of the cloaked starfighters. In addition to the stygium, the fighters required a supply of oridium fuel, and the Empire established a mining facility in the Belt of Arah to extract and process the ore. To protect the development project, Batch requisitioned the Executor-class Star Dreadnought Terror, under the command of Admiral Sarn. Both the Terror and the Imdaar Alpha facility were also fitted with the cloaking technology.
Initial prototypes of the new starfighter were tested near Dreighton, with Sigma Squadron among the first units of the fighters to become operational. Ever since the Battle of Dreighton during the Clone Wars, unexplained events and sightings of ghost ships had been reported in the area of the Dreighton Triangle, and the Empire took advantage of the situation as a cover for their trials. However, some mishaps on early trials caused delays to the project and the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Vader eventually arrived to oversee the final stages of the project. From aboard the Terror, Vader observed a trial in which Sigma Squadron attacked three Rebel X-wings on patrol in the Dreighton Triangle. All three X-wings were destroyed, and Sarn considered it a successful demonstration, though he anticipated further time to test the technology. Vader, however, was impatient with the seemingly endless tests. Under the Dark Lord's supervision, the final field tests were soon completed and Vader ordered the full scale production of the new fighters. Before long, a fleet of thousands of the TIE Phantoms stood ready at Imdaar Alpha.
- "That's where they're making the phantom TIEs! There must be thousands of them in there. If we don't do something about them, it doesn't matter if we get this thing home or not!"
- ―Ru Murleen
Around the same time, the Rebel Alliance became aware that the Empire was working on a major project. The Rebel agent Ru Murleen had been dispatched to the planet Imdaar to monitor the area and had reported unusually high levels of Imperial activity, though she was unaware of the nature of the threat. However, it was Rebel agents aboard the YT-1300 light freighter Corellia Star who provided the Alliance's best lead when they uncovered information about the mining facility in the Belt of Arah supplying fuel for some new Imperial weapon. As the crew attempted to deliver the information to the Alliance Fleet, however, the freighter was captured by Imperial forces and taken to Dreighton. Two Rebel B-wings on patrol near Dreighton intercepted the Corellia Star's distress signal and moved to investigate. As with the patrol three days earlier, however, they soon came under attack from the TIE Phantoms, the cloaked fighters taking them by surprise, killing the pilot Kirby and forcing the other, Rookie One, to crash-land on the planet.
Rookie One was able to escape from Dreighton aboard the Corellia Star and return to the Alliance Fleet with the information the ship carried. This led Admiral Gial Ackbar to dispatch Rascal Squadron on a mission to disable the oridium processing operation in the Belt of Arah. The Rebels successfully destroyed the mining facility, but as they prepared to jump to hyperspace, three TIE Phantoms decloaked behind them and successfully eliminated two of the X-wings before they could react. Again, Rookie One managed to survive, jumping to hyperspace moments before the Imperial fighters could destroy his ship.
The X-wing's flight recorder showed the capabilities of the TIE Phantom. This, together with intelligence showing the Terror en route to Imdaar, prompted Admiral Ackbar to dispatch Rookie One to rendezvous with Ru Murleen. Their mission was to infiltrate the planetary supply base, get aboard the Terror, and steal one of the TIE Phantoms to be studied by Alliance engineers in the hope of developing a countermeasure. The two Rebel agents successfully boarded the Terror, disguised as stormtroopers, as the Super Star Destroyer prepared to depart and deploy the fighters against the Alliance. Although the Imperials became alerted to the intruders, the Rebels stole one of the fighters, forcing the Imperials to seal the Terror's hangars to prevent their escape. The Rebels, however, flew the stolen fighter through the network of hangars and into the Super Star Destroyer's superstructure. As they searched for a way out, they came across the vessel's main reactor, and, realizing that they had the opportunity to destroy the Terror and the fleet of TIE Phantoms that it contained, destroyed the reactor's beam focusers, causing it to go critical and explode. As the Terror began to break up, the Rebels escaped to safety. Darth Vader also escaped the doomed vessel, but not before executing Sarn for his failure.
Though the Terror's fate was sealed, the Imperials launched TIE Phantoms to prevent the Rebels from escaping to hyperspace. The Imperial fighters forced the stolen ship to turn back toward Imdaar. Despite Rookie One's best efforts, which resulted in the destruction of several of the Imperial fighters, the stolen TIE Phantom's deflector shields soon began to fail, though Murleen was able to activate the cloaking device before the Imperials could destroy it. When the Terror finally blew, the previously cloaked TIE Phantom factory on Imdaar Alpha became visible. Murleen quickly realized how many more of the fighters were inside the facility and took the stolen fighter inside. The Rebels destroyed the factory's reactor core, the factory itself, along with the remaining TIE Phantoms.
The stolen TIE Phantom was taken back to a Rebel base where the Alliance engineers would examine the technology. Since the Empire had lost its own TIE Phantom fleet, the Rebels hoped they could adapt the technology to their own fighters, giving them an advantage in future battles. However, shortly after the vessel docked on the planet, the self-destruct mechanism activated, destroying both the vessel and the technology within it.
Following the failure of the TIE Phantom project, Batch fled into hiding in the Outer Rim Territories with his remaining ships to avoid the Emperor's wrath. He was later assassinated by his crew, who were still loyal to Admiral Sarn. Though the TIE Phantom's technology was lost forever, the hibridium technology that preceded it continued to be developed as part of the Vorknkx Project, resulting in a cloaking device being fitted to the CR90 corvette Vorknkx. Grand Admiral Thrawn would later use the hibridium cloak to great effect in his campaign against the New Republic.
Behind the scenesEdit
- "There was one sketch in one of the Star Wars art books that I used as sort of a basis for it. It was actually an early design for the Imperial shuttle. It had this ball front end with this long body, almost like a dragonfly, and then these wings that came up and hung way out over the front. And I thought it worked for this."
- ―Rich Green, on the origin of the TIE Phantom design
The TIE Phantom was created by Vince Lee for the 1995 LucasArts video game Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire. The fighter was designed by Rich Green, and based on an early sketch of the Lambda-class T-4a shuttle. Green adapted the design to make it fit the look of other TIE series fighters, altering the window pattern on the cockpit and adding the standard solar panel appearance to the wings. As he refined the idea, Green incorporated suggestions from Lee, including adding scoops to resemble air vents. Green considered the TIE Phantom the hardest element of the game to design, making it feel both new, yet instantly recognizable as a TIE series fighter, and also both slick and scary in appearance.
Although many fans, including Curtis Saxton on the Star Wars Technical Commentaries, already called the ship the TIE Phantom, it was not identified as such in a canon source until the release of Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption in late 2006, having been previously called only the "Phantom TIE." The fighter was included as a unit type in Forces of Corruption itself, though the game adds no canonical information about its usage.
Though all five of the TIE Phantom's laser cannons were clearly visible in Rebel Assault II, only the two under the cockpit were actually shown firing in the game. The purpose of the wing-mounted cannons was not confirmed until the release of Forces of Corruption, which showed the fighters making use of all five cannons.
- Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption (First identified as TIE Phantom)
- Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire (First appearance)
- Rebel Assault II Official Player's Guide
- "Rebel Rouser"—Star Wars Galaxy Magazine 5
- The Essential Chronology
- "Who's Who: Imperial Grand Admirals"—Star Wars Insider 66
- The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels
- The New Essential Chronology
- Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption: Prima Official Game Guide
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
- Rebellion Era Campaign Guide
- The Essential Guide to Warfare
- "X-Wing Miniatures Game - TIE Phantom Expansion Pack"
Notes and referencesEdit
- ↑ Though no source details Sienar Fleet Systems' involvement with the TIE Phantom, various sources, including the Star Wars Encyclopedia and The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels, establish the company as the manufacturers of the TIE series to which the fighter belongs.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire
- ↑ Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption identifies the ship as the "TIE Phantom" while TIE is established as an acronym for "Twin Ion Engine" in several sources, including The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Rebellion Era Campaign Guide
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption: Prima Official Game Guide
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 "Who's Who: Imperial Grand Admirals"—Star Wars Insider 66
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption
- ↑ The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 The New Essential Chronology
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 The New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels
- ↑ Rebel Assault II Official Player's Guide
- ↑ Curtis Saxton. STAR WARS: TIE Fighters. Star Wars Technical Commentaries. Archived from the original on December 3, 2002. Retrieved on January 26, 2013.
- ↑ What is your favourite Imperial starfighter? on the Jedi Council Forums (Videogames board; posted by CrixMakin on Mar 13, 2002 at 6:01 AM; accessed January 26, 2013)
- ↑ Kaelis (April 20, 2002 08:45). The Underused Snubfighters Thread. Woo, Scary.. StarWars.com Message Boards. Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved on March 11, 2009.
- ↑ TIE Phantom on Wookieepedia (posted May 24, 2005 22:22)
- ↑ The Essential Chronology